Want to install a garage pit or garage lift in your garage?
There are some important things you need to know – and you need to find out if it’s even possible.
What’s a garage pit?
A garage pit is a hole that’s made in the garage floor that you can use to study the underside of your car and have it serviced. It’s been around for many decades and makes working on your car very convenient.
By comparison, a garage lift is a structure that’s used to lift your vehicle in your garage so you can work on it, therefore it makes use of that precious vertical space in your garage that so often goes to waste.
Now that we’ve defined a garage pit and lift, let’s look at what you need to know about installing them.
- 1 Pros And Cons Of Garage Pits
- 2 Pros And Cons Of Garage Lifts
- 3 Garage Pit DIY
- 4 Garage Pits: Are They Legal And Covered By Insurance?
- 5 How To Install A Garage Lift
- 6 Related Questions
- 7 Conclusion
Pros And Cons Of Garage Pits
Although a garage pit might seem like the perfect solution when you want to work on your car at home, there are some important things to know about it.
- Once installed, a garage pit makes it really easy to inspect and work on your car because you can simply walk right underneath it without having to use a lift, whether electrically or manually.
- A garage pit can be safer than a lift because you’re not lifting your car up into the air.
- Vehicle pits can be an alternative to lifts if you don’t have enough height in your garage to install a lift.
- Your pit won’t require much maintenance.
- You need to ensure you have proper ventilation in place in your garage otherwise you could run into safety problems as a result of how car fumes can collect in that pit and become a safety hazard.
- Although a garage pit is considered to make inspecting the underside of your car easier, it can make actual work on your car difficult, especially if you need to make use of tools.
- There’s always the danger of falling into the pit, which is why you’ll need to ensure the pit is covered and visible, such as with the use of pit lighting.
Pros And Cons Of Garage Lifts
What about garage lifts?
They also have some advantages and drawbacks. Let’s check them out.
- Provided that the garage lift is safe and secure, you’ll be able to easily work underneath your car whenever it requires repairs.
- Using a garage lift enables you to save space because you’re not only making use of the vertical space in your garage but you’re also giving yourself the chance to double your parking space.
- You’ll need to regularly maintain your car lift to ensure that it’s safe, secure, and working properly.
- You’ll need to ensure that your garage ceiling has the height to accommodate a car lift.
Garage Pit DIY
If you’ve decided that you’d like to go ahead and build a garage pit, or inspection pit as it’s often called, you can go the DIY route. Here’s how to do it.
First, you’ll need to determine how large you want your garage pit to be. Roughly, it should be around 80cm in width, 300cm in height, and 140cm in depth, but you’ll need to increase it if you want a bit more space so that it’s comfortable for you to move inside it.
Bear in mind you also have to consider if it will be easy for you to get in and out of the pit.
Use chalk to draw the pit outline on the concrete floor. Then, use the chalk again to make a slightly wider outline – about two or three inches away from the original outline.
This extra channel on the side is important because it will ensure that you can confine the breaking of the concrete to the pit.
You should chisel this channel before you go ahead and break the concrete in the pit. Start by breaking through the concrete with the use of a sledgehammer.
You might find that it’s difficult to remove the pieces of concrete as they tend to lock together. Use a mattock to separate the chunks and pry them up.
Once you start working on digging the pit, make sure you dispose of the concrete and soil as it’s formed to make your job easier. The soil could be recycled, such as for use in the garden.
Once you’ve dug out the trench, you will need to ensure the bottom of it is level. Then, use fine gravel to compact it. You can crush stones and use these to produce a layer that’s about two to 2.7 inches thick. Use a tamper to make it compact.
To reinforce the bottom of the pit, you should lay down a concrete floor that’s about six centimeters thick. You can reinforce it with mesh that’s about three centimeters thick. This is important to give the pit stability at the bottom.
You will also need to ensure that you have concrete pieces and fencing panels for the sides of the pit. Don’t rush this part of the project. You must ensure that the concrete floor of the pit as well as the sides are perfectly level and done correctly.
Any spaces that appear in the concrete can be filled and impacted with soil.
The edges of the top of the pit should be about two inches below the surface of the concrete garage floor. This will ensure that you will be able to place a cover, such as one made of wood, on top of the pit when it’s not in use.
You will have to build up these edges so that they are perfectly level, and for this task you’ll need to make use of a mixture of cement. You can use planks as moulds.
- Build stairs leading down into the garage pit. This will ensure your safety by providing you with easy access out of the pit, although it will require more work.
- It’s recommended to paint the inside of the pit with white paint as this makes it more visible. You could also attach lights inside so that you will have better visibility when inside the pit.
- When the pit is not in use, it can pose a danger to people who might not know it’s there. Therefore, make sure you cover it appropriately, such as with a type of board. You could also install handrails around the pit when it’s covered to further seal it off and keep it safe.
How Much Will A DIY Garage Pit Cost?
Based on the above instructions, it’s clear to see you will need to have some important items handy in order to construct your garage pit. These include the following:
- Sledgehammer (approx. cost $20)
- Mattock (approx. cost $15)
- Gravel (approx. cost $1 to $3 per square foot)
- Tamper (approx. cost $20 to $150)
- Concrete (approx. cost $113 per yard)
- Concrete mesh (approx. cost $0.14 per square foot)
- Paint (approx. cost $30 to $50 per gallon)
- MDF wood panelling (approx. cost $11 to $40 for 32-square foot sheets)
The above will give you a rough idea of how much it will cost to build your own garage pit at home.
However, you can reduce your costs by borrowing certain materials, such as the tools you need, as well as by re-using items you already have, such as when it comes to the wood that you’ll use.
Can You Buy Premade Garage Pits?
There are companies that sell premade garage pits which you can purchase. Mech Mate is an example, however they are based in the U.K. This company provides garage pits that are made out of heavy-duty polyester resin molding.
The side ledges, steps, and floor have been reinforced with laminated panels. Yes, the structure even comes with steps included! To find out the cost, you’ll have to get in touch with them on their website.
While there are other prefabricated garage pits available online, many of them are meant for commercial or heavy-duty applications.
Garage Pits: Are They Legal And Covered By Insurance?
Due to the risks involved with garage pits, such as the toxic fumes that are released by vehicles, garage pits are not always legal to have on your property.
That’s why it’s important to check the local laws in the area you live to be sure that you’re allowed to have an inspection pit in your garage. You might, at the very least, require a permit to have the pit.
When it comes to your insurance policy, chances are that your garage pit won’t be insured, however it’s worth checking with your home insurance company.
It’s worth bearing in mind that if your garage pit ends up flooded and it damages your possessions, your insurance policy probably won’t cover it because generally all types of flooding (whether from natural disasters or man-made) are not covered by basic policies.
Now, what happens if there’s a fire because of your garage pit?
Fire is generally covered by insurance policies, although the issue could become complicated if the fire was caused as a result of negligence – and since garage pits are considered to be unhealthy or even downright illegal in some regions, building one could certainly be viewed in that way.
Negligence can be described as failure to take responsibility for something, with an example being not cutting down a tree on your property that’s rotting and is an accident waiting to happen.
Similarly, a garage pit that causes harm to you or others could be viewed as negligence by some insurance companies because of it being inherently dangerous.
For example, if you don’t cover it correctly and you end up injuring yourself by falling into the pit. Similarly, if you fall ill from exposure to the car’s toxic fumes because you didn’t ensure proper ventilation in your garage, that could also be seen as negligence.
How To Install A Garage Lift
Maybe garage pits are just too complicated and filled with controversy, so you’d rather want to skip them and choose to have a garage lift in your garage instead.
This is probably for the best – garage lifts can often be installed in any garage, although you do need to check what the rules and regulations are for lifts in your state. The Automotive Lift Institute is a useful resource in this regard.
You can purchase premade garage lifts that make use of two columns. These will have to be put into the concrete floor of your garage.
Just make sure that the garage floor will be durable and deep enough to offer the lift enough support. Ideally, you should aim to have at least 10 or so inches of depth for them.
Once you have purchased the lift, bear in mind it will need to be forklifted off the delivery truck – you might have to rent a forklift for this which could cost you approximately $100.
Before you can install your car lift, you’ll have to insert the cables and/or chains inside them. Check the product’s user manual to be sure of how to do this because they can vary quite a lot from one manufacturer to another.
Then, follow these steps:
Draw chalk lines on the ground so that you can see exactly where you want the columns to go, then you can start drilling the holes. Different car lifts will have different depth requirements, so make sure you check the user manual of that specific lift to ensure that it matches up with its lifting capacity.
When drilling the holes, make sure you use a hammer drill. You’ll have to move it up and down until you can see that the hole has been cleared. When you have drilled the holes, put bolts in the holes.
Then you have to install the top trough assembly. For this, you’ll need two ladders and the help of two strong people. When it’s been installed, tighten the bolts.
You can now install the hydraulic power unit. It’s heavy so you’ll need the help of another person. You’ll find this unit will come with what’s known as a vibration dampener.
Start by placing this dampener between the column and hydraulic unit.
When that’s been installed, you should fill the hydraulic unit with hydraulic oil – you’ll need a few gallons.
Once you’ve completed the above steps, you’ll need to install all the power unit hoses, safety cables, hydraulic lines, and safeties. You’ll also have to ensure you route the equalizer cables. The instructions for these will vary from one lift manufacturer to the next, so check the installation instructions.
Generally, there are some tips you will need to follow. These include:
You will need to install the lift’s safety cables so that they are put through the cylinders in the columns as well as through the lift’s top bar. Then, you’ll have to do the same thing for the hoses and hydraulics lines.
Once that’s done, you’ll be ready to install the lift arms and slide in the head pins. As long as they are inside as well as through the arm assembly holes, you can install the snap ring – this goes into the groove in the lift of the head pin on the underside of the head (via JMC Automotive Equipment).
Ensure the gears work well before you try to use the lift!
How much does a garage lift cost?
If you’re having the car lift installed by professionals, you’re looking at paying $500 for a two-post car lift and almost double for a four-post car lift.
If you’re doing it yourself, you’ll need to purchase the lift. You’re looking at paying approximately $2,000 to $3,000 for a two-post car lift.
How high should your ceiling be so that you can install a car lift?
You should have a ceiling that’s at least 12 feet in height, but this could vary depending on the car lift manufacturer.
You should always measure your garage height and check the lift’s specs to ensure that they are compatible.
When you want to work on your car at home, you might be tempted to install a garage pit or garage lift to make your work much easier.
These structures enable you to stand right underneath the car and be able to work on it with greater ease. In this article, we’ve looked at everything you need to know about garage pits and lifts so you can choose the one that works best for your garage workshop.